Pacific Council News Winter 2019: Highly migratory species

Council Chooses Not to Consider Shallow-Set Longline Permit

Swordfish. Photo: Joe Fish Flynn/Shutterstock

In November the Council chose not to continue considering a West Coast permit to use shallow-set longline fishing gear outside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) at this time.

Members of the fishing industry had been asking the Council to discuss allowing the fishery since 2009. In 2009, the Council chose not to allow the gear, citing concerns over bycatch and that some non-target fish stocks were in decline. Currently, the drift gillnet fishery is being used to target swordfish, but may be phased out in the near future. Therefore, the industry is looking for a productive alternative gear to target swordfish.

At the November meeting, the Council directed the Highly Migratory Species Fisheries Management Team to analyze existing observer data from the Hawaii shallow-set longline fishery, as well as sources of West Coast swordfish supply, in support of the Swordfish Monitoring and Management Plan. This is in part to better understand the relationship between domestic and foreign sources of swordfish supply, and to explore the possibility of improving conservation and reducing the Nation’s seafood trade deficit through increased West Coast production. The Team will report back to the Council in June.

International Management Recommendations

In November, the Council made the following recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service for consideration when developing negotiating positions for Pacific regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs). The recommendations were based on reports by the Enforcement Consultants and Highly Migratory Species Advisory Subpanel.

  • Strengthen or seek adoption of RFMO measures to require vessels comply with a “garbage plan” to prevent discarding of waste at sea.
  • Seek adoption of RFMO measures to require vessels carry and deploy boarding ladders that allow safe boarding during high seas inspections.
  • Support Permanent Advisory Committee recommendations on South Pacific albacore conservation and management by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
  • Work through the WCPFC to determine if unreported North Pacific albacore catch is occurring in the Convention Area and to better understand the impact of incidental catch of north Pacific albacore, especially by “small island developing state” fleets, not bound by current fishing effort limits.

The U.S.-Canada Albacore Treaty governs access by U.S. and Canadian albacore fishing vessels to the others’ EEZ, and establishes three-year “fishing regimes” that specify access for the purpose of fishing and port privileges. The current U.S./Canada fishing regime ends December 31, 2019, and a new agreement will have to be negotiated before the start of the next fishing season on June 15, 2020. The Council may make recommendations on the next fishing regime at its March 2020 meeting when David Hogan, the Department of State representative on the Council, is present. In the interim the Council adopted the following recommendations related to this issue:

  • Establish a catch attribution system for Canadian North Pacific albacore catch within the U.S. EEZ and vice versa.
  • Work with Canada’s Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans to harmonize paperwork requirements for EEZ and port access.
  • Investigate and provide information on the source of cheap albacore imported into Canada and re-exported to the U.S. under the label “Product of Canada.”

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